jeudi 14 octobre 2010

Bravo Chile

Who could have stayed unfazed before the live news broadcast and video streaming as the 33 miners of the San Jose mine were rescued 69 days after being entombed ?!
Is there any lesson we can derive from this drama?

On 5.8.2010, a tunnel deep down in the privately-owned-and-operated San Jose mine in the Chilean Atacama desert, 700kms NW of Santiago, collapsed and sealed off 33 miners in the deepest reaches of the mine.
At the time of the accident, the tragedy qualified for a brief mention in the mainstream global news channel as had other similar news stories of mine accidents from Russia through USA to China.
The world moved on and the news cameras panned to other dramas, not particularly moved by the anguish and despair of the families whose lives were torn apart from understanding that their loved ones were entombed 700m under the mountain.
No one had any news of the trapped miners’ fate. First attempts to locate and establish whether or not there were survivors proved futile and posed serious risks to those who had volunteered for a hypothetical rescue.
With the uncertain fate of their 33 countrymen at stake, Chile found the resolve not to turn away from what seemed an impossible task and invited the world community “with any technology and knowledge” to come forward and help. This call from a modern Chile, a country showing it cares for its citizens, was answered!
On the 22.08.2010, the news flashed through that the 33 miners had been located and that they were all alive!
Locating the miners in itself was a notable feat of dogged determination. What was more notable was that there were survivors at all, 17 days after the accident. No one had dared to hope for such a miracle. Nobody had ever survived that long, trapped underground.
With the extraordinary news, came the sobering reality of the survivors’ situation: The miners had only survived to be condemned to their inevitable final entombment.
They were 700m deep under the mountain, with no way out through the hard rock, had managed to survive, in an emergency shelter below the collapsed mine roof, on 48hrs ration for the 17days it took rescue probes to breach their tomb, took stock of their condition and deliver supplies. Rescue attempt required drilling through the rock to reach and extract them from their damp and hot (33°C) prison. No one else has ever managed a rescue from such depth.
Mining has been going on from time immemorial. Mine collapse had both recurringly took place and its due in human lives. It was a fact of mining life! For the San Jose mine survivors, their being found could not dispel their stark reality.

The Chilean Government and the miners’ families remained resolved not be cowed. With the help of specialist drilling and consulting engineers, 3 rescue bore-hole projects got underway to pull the miners to safety. Even before the drilling projects started, Camp Hope had sprung up from the stark, cold and dry desert landscape, the anguish and prayers of the miners’ families driving the engineers and rescuers to the limits of their abilities and that of their machines.
This caught the attention of the media hype circus. As the rescue project bore on, they all flocked to this remote, ancient, accident–prone and hitherto insignificant mine, in the Atacama desert, to turn the glare of their global limelight, more used to candid postures of the glitz and glamour circles, on the humble and modest families. The Hungarian toxic red mud and its individual tragedies were relegated. As were the ongoing uncompromising and unforgiving mire in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with all the other usual captivating global news-headline dramas.
For the media, their ratings and audimats demand that they go beyond the simple matter of seeking and presenting factual news. While the world appreciated the front-row seats of the unfolding drama at the San Jose mine, some of us, however, also despaired over the media cynicism in trying to delve into the swirls of hopes and despair of the miners’ families to lay bare the strengths and frailties of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
Some of us had to make a conscious effort to lock off this media frenzy as an unnecessary distraction from the world-first, real and live-broadcast epic of the rescue mission underway.
I looked more to the relief of fathers, mothers, wives, sons, daughters, friends and partners as the 33 miners who were once taken for dead, were once again each in turn for over 24 hours, given a new birth.
I felt deeply the pride of the mine shift-foreman as he handed over his, brusquely- interrupted and much-prolonged shift, to the Chilean President!
I sought more the sharing of the emotions of each reunion and the wonder of a whole country united behind the single and common purpose of not giving up on their own, however modest and humble.
This is the lesson that I take away from the Chilean, San Jose mine rescue. Not about who is or not a hero, however many heroes there were to lead the rescue mission to a successful conclusion. Not the hype about how the miners and their community will personally and collectively cope!!.
It also brought a chilling thought over how sometimes, misplaced national pride sometimes condemn those we want to save. Had the Russian government been as determined and open as the Chilean, then perhaps the Kursk tragic episode of 10 years ago, could have turned out differently, and the world could have added to its experience and skill in rescuing those imprisoned beyond reach.

Bravo Chile! For giving us an example of fortitude, unity, national pride and common purpose.

mercredi 6 octobre 2010

Two Tales of An Island

It was exactly 3 years ago on 04.10.2007, when Mr.Jacquelin Dugasse, then Minister for National Development, formally presented the National Assembly with a preview of what was termed the biggest investment project ever to be undertaken in the country.

There was to be over €400M in Foreign Direct Investment, from the period 2008 to 2012 for the new 780000m² newly reclaimed -at a cost of €13M - Aurore island, itself part of the East Coast Reclamation Phase III project!

€400Million at one scoop!! Who was the genius who managed to pull that rabbit from the white elephant’s hat! For that kind of capital input, the representatives of the nation were suitably impressed to be quite ready to brush aside such persistent issues as the wisdom of the multi-million investment for a reclamation project with unclear Land Use Plan, or the ability of the country to sustain the long term economic debt implications, or again, how much of our national soul had we bargained into the deal!

There were to be an 18-hole golf course, 144 luxury villas, 90 condominiums, a casino, a five-star hotel and a waterfront marina.
All constructions and operations of the facilities on the island were to be undertaken and managed by a company named as Aurore Nouvelle Seychelles,2 tiers-removed from its RSA parent company.
Local businesses were led to understand that they would benefit from the vast range of business opportunities that were to be made available.
1000 jobs were promised for the development phase and some 400 other during its operational phase.
The country was to further benefit from various facilities that the developer was to put in place, such as
· US$10M electricity generator to be provided by Aurore Nouvelle Seychelles,
which was to also supply the nearby Ile Perseverance.
· US$1M desalination plant with links to the national water network,
· Sewerage treatment plant which would also serve Ile Perseverance.
· Construction of the North Mahe Highway from Maison du Peuple through Ile Perseverance and Ile Aurore right up to La Retraite
· Bridge to link Ile Aurore to Anse Etoile.
· An additional US$100M reclamation of 35 hectares to add to the national territory
· 10% of the sale price of condominiums & villas each time there is a new sale and each time there is a change of ownership.

Three years later, same island, different tale! The €400M investment was nothing more than another empty promise. ANS the magician, Aurore the hat, and €400M the rabbit were all part of the bundle that lasted the time it took for us to understand that it was all another show with little to grab onto once the curtains are drawn. We had not even blinked!!

The case of Aurore Island is not an inter-corporate deal that misfired due to the 08-09 global crisis. It is an illustration, if ever another was needed, of how the current political leaders squander the limited means of our small nation, are too eager to chase after windmills in seeking to take their coals out of the fire and have no shame in feeding us hogwash to cover their mismanagement and incompetence!

The President himself came forward on 4.10.2010 to announce (one assumes with some mysterious sense of pride and personal achievement) that “Seychellois investors and small-scale entrepreneurs are to be given the chance to bid” for the revised projects at ile Aurore. “The economic environment is now favourable to encourage small Seychellois businesses and create more wealth in the country……” he said. “ the time has come when Seychelles has enough large hotel schemes to cater for a certain kind of clientele……” he said. “We now have a new strategy … give more possibilities for ordinary Seychellois to invest not only in tourism projects but related economic projects and developments.” he said.


Three years ago, we did not notice that local entrepreneurs had the investment capability to take on Aurore.
Three years ago, we had not understood that we had enough large hotels
Three years and one harsh economic reform after the Aurore bubble bust, we suddenly turn around to take notice of our own kinfolks!
The questions now are, what Land Use Plan does Aurore have, how far back has the bubble bust put Ile Perseverance, the North Mahe Highway, Anse Etoile –Aurore Island Bridge, etc. and are we capable of pulling a €400M rabbit for it all?

That’s our merry-go-round with defective brakes! The operator is out for lunch!